25 June 2013
Ramallah, West Bank
Ramallah hosted a graduation ceremony marking United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff members’ completion of an Introduction to Music Therapy Techniques course, whose practices some psychosocial workers have already employed in their work with Palestine refugee communities.
The course, funded by the German World Peace Service (Weltfriedensdienst – WFD), was organized and implemented by the Al Mada Association in partnership with UNRWA. Based in Al Bireh, Al Mada for Arts-Based Community Development is a development organization that specializes in music training and education, as well as in music as a form of art therapy. The association caters to the needs of marginalized groups including youth, the elderly, persons with disabilities, children affected by conflict and women and girls affected by domestic or sexual violence.
The association currently implements three programmes, Music Therapy, Community Expressive Arts and Music for Management. According to Al Mada Co-Director Reem Abdul-Hadi, “This was an effort into a new and unproven therapy. With strong support from UNRWA, we were able to venture into this area.”
Since the association’s inception fifteen years ago, its launch in 1999, Al Mada has taken a community- based approach to development. Its informational manuals are always open to additions from trainees, and it has organized sessions for individuals and small groups to help overcome cultural reservations about therapy and music. These efforts have increased social cohesion and acceptance for Al Mada programmes.
One of the graduates of the Introduction to Music Therapy Techniques course, Khitam Awatleh, is an UNRWA psychosocial worker at the Aqbat Jabr clinic, where she provides support to women whose spouses or children have disabilities or special needs. She was surprised by reception her music therapy methods garnered, saying, “The women in my support group responded very positively to both hearing and playing music. They embraced the music right away and shared their stories quickly and comfortably soon after.”
Ms Abdul-Hadi recounted other positive developments. A student who had been treated by a programme participant “went from being perceived as a ‘truant’ student to becoming the leader of the school choir. Dealing with his social frustrations transformed his life,” she said.
She then spoke of a young girl who had been sexually abused, and became emotionally and socially isolated after attempts at traditional therapy. “We introduced her to music therapy and were able to discover that her issues stemmed from a lack of parental support. From that perspective, we were better able to address the effects of her sexual trauma.” Music therapy, she continued, “not only has the ability to allow the marginalized to express themselves without the implications of traditional therapy, but also allows for recovery in record time.”
The Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Tim Henry, also noted the programme’s positive results and hoped that the association would continue working in the future. He said: “Al Mada has enabled our community to identify the issues we face, and training courses such as this one will enable us to realize solutions to these problems collectively.”